Hearing on Expansion of Ali Act gets heated

November 9, 2017

Testimony was heard before a Congressional Subcommittee on the possibility of expanding the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act to combat sports.  Randy Couture, Marc Ratner, Greg Sirb and Dr. Kristen Dams-O’Connor testified at Thursday morning’s hearing.

The testimony centered around the business of MMA and the possible expansion of the Ali Act and at times became contentious especially when the bill’s sponsor, Oklahoma congressman Markwayne Mullin asked questions of the UFC’s Marc Ratner.

There were three central issues related to today’s hearing.  First, the issue of fighter rankings came up as Congressman Mullin grilled Ratner about the rankings and questioned how Georges St Pierre, a fighter that has been retired for 4 years, receive an immediate title shot against UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping.

h/t @jedigoodman

He also asked how Bisping’s first challenger to the title was an unranked Dan Henderson.

Another issue was that of coercive contracts which Randy Couture addressed the problem.  He noted that he was prevented to fight Fedor Emelianenko due to the fact he had an exclusive contract with the UFC and could not fight outside of the promotion.  Additionally, Pennsylvania Athletic Commissioner, a proponent of the proposed bill stated, “[i]f the fighter does not know how big the financial pie is then how is he to know how big of a piece of the pie he should bargain for?”  Although a proponent, he noted that there has been no legal case brought forward by the U.S. Attorney enforcing the current Ali Act.  While there have been lawsuits brought by fighters, the law allows for the government to enforce the act.  According to Sirb, this has not happened.

Also, the issue of head trauma was discussed as Dr. Kristen Dams-O’Connor testified about traumatic brain injury, or TBI.  Her research centers around understanding and improving long-term outcomes experienced by individuals who sustained TBI.  Her testimony concluded that despite the fact that not participating in sports such as MMA or football would greatly reduce the number of TBI cases, that is not the reality.  She seemed resigned to the conclusion that these sports provide a certain amount of reward despite the inherent risk.  She did distinguish the two sports, MMA and football, by noting that it is the goal in MMA to deliver TBI to your opponent as knocking out someone is a part of the sport whereas football players avoid sustaining a concussion during their athletic careers.

The hearing had members of congress ask questions.  The star of the hearing (in my opinion) was Illinois congresswoman Jan Schakowsky who stated that she attended last year’s hearing on MMA.  She did her researched and watched some fights.  Admittedly, it was too bloody for her but she was interested in the safety of the sport and supported the Ali Act’s passage.  Later in the hearing, she asked Dr. Dams-O’Connor informative questions about TBI and youth participation in MMA.

On the other spectrum of the “question asking” was New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone.  Pallone is a proponent of sports betting and utilized his time to ask questions related to sports betting.  Essentially, Pallone did not really care about the answers but used this stage to push his stance on sports betting.

But the main event of the hearing was Mullin going after UFC representative Marc Ratner.  The congressman was short with Ratner and often cutting him off from filibustering his limited time.  He was pointed with Ratner about the rankings system to which Ratner attempted to talk about how the fights were made for the fan’s benefit.  He queried whether Conor McGregor was stripped of his Featherweight title for lack of defending it.  Ratner noted that he had no say in the rankings and did not know.  The attack by Mullin on Ratner seemed calculated.  Mullin proclaimed that the UFC was the “Don King of MMA.”  This was meant as a pejorative swipe at the organization.

Payout Perspective:

We’ll have more on this interesting hearing from Thursday.  The hearing seemed to flesh out some of the basic issues of why expand the Ali Act to combat sports and the reasons why it is not needed.  It essentially boils down to a state’s right to govern versus federal oversight.  At the outset, Mullin seemed to stress the “interstate commerce” nature of MMA which would imply that the business crosses states lines and due to this, a federal law would be appropriate.  MMA Payout will keep you posted.

Live Stream: Congressional Hearing on Perspectives on MMA

November 9, 2017

This morning, the Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection will hear from Randy Couture, Marc Ratner, Greg Sirb and Dr. Kristen Dams-O’Connor on MMA and the proposed expansion of the Muhammad Ali Act.  You can watch below:

The witnesses have provided their statements that they will deliver to the committee. You can find them here.

MMA Payout will have reaction and analysis after the hearing.

Background Memo Produced for Congressional Hearing on MMA set for Thursday

November 8, 2017

On Thursday, Randy Couture, Marc Ratner, Dr. Kristen Dams-O’Connor and Greg Sirb will testify before a Congressional Subcommittee discussing MMA and the proposed bill which would expand the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act to combat sports.

Currently, there are 7 co-sponsors to the bill introduced by Republican congressman Marwayne Mullin in May 2016.

“Perspectives on Mixed Martial Arts,” as the hearing is entitled will start on 10:00 a.m. ET on Thursday.  Couture, Ratner and Pennsylvania’s Athletic Commissioner Gregory Sirb will testify.  Also added is Dr. Kristen Dams-O’Connor, Director, Brain Injury Research Center, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Since May 2016, the proponents of the bill have been actively lobbying Washington D.C. to garner support from legislators.  On the other side, the UFC has spent money to lobby against the passage of the bill.

With news that Dana White is interested in promoting boxing, the bill has a new twist depending on the structure of the anticipated UFC Boxing promotion.

The background statement for the hearing has been produced and is below.

HHRG-115-IF17-20171109-SD003 by JASONCRUZ206 on Scribd

Among the topics that may be explored at the hearing:

-How has MMA evolved and changed since its beginnings in the early 1990s? Do these changes suggest a need for new business or regulatory approaches?

-How does MMA compare to other combat sports? Do any similarities or differences offer insights into public policy options?

-How does current regulation of MMA protect the interests of fans, fighters, and sponsors? Are there areas for improvement?

Payout Perspective:

MMA Payout will have a breakdown of the testimony taken on Thursday.  While I don’t expect anything earth shattering, I anticipate that this is a sign of attempting to determine the level of support out there is for the bill.  The bill is far from a vote in the House, but the hearing is a step in the right direction.  It will be interesting to see the level of education on the subjects in MMA will take place and the advocacy by the parties.

Congressional Hearing on MMA set for next week

November 3, 2017

There will be a Congressional Hearing on Mixed Martial Arts on Thursday, November 9th.  The subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection will hear testimony from Randy Couture, the UFC’s Marc Ratner and the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Athletic Commission Greg Sirb.

Entitled, “Perspectives on Mixed Martial Arts,” it appears the hearing will discuss the Expansion of the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act.

You may recall last December, Couture and others testified at a similar subcommittee hearing which served as a general primer on the issues in mixed martial arts although it did not discuss in detail the legislation proposed by Markwayne Mullin.  Since then, the bill has secured more co-sponsors in support.

Payout Perspective:

Another hearing on MMA, and this time directed to the Ali Act Expansion.  It will be interesting to see the amount of education/information that the testimony will provide.  Moreover, how much will the subcommittees know about the sport and what the law will be applied.  Well, will the people testifying know what the expansion will do.  With the talk about the UFC expanding into boxing (which is a question I hope will come up), we will see the pros and cons of the expansion.

White responds to Hunt’s comments after taken off of Sydney card

October 30, 2017

Dana White responded to Mark Hunt’s comments after he was taken off the Sydney card next month.  In a letter to the Daily Telegraph he claims to have offered to fly Hunt to Las Vegas to get checked out.

Hunt was taken off of the UFC Fight Night 121 card after an article he wrote detailed issues with sleep and memory related to his career of fighting.

A portion of the letter reads:

My team contacted his [Hunt’s] management within the first week of learning about these symptoms and offered to fly him to Las Vegas first class to visit the Lou Ruvo Brain Center — which is the best in the world for brain research — to get more tests done. And you know what? He absolutely refused.

White went on to explain that he could not have him in the Octagon with knowledge that Hunt had health issues.  He noted that Hunt had yet to be cleared to fight on the Sydney card.

Payout Perspective:

The UFC really had no option here especially with athlete head injuries being in the news.  White’s response makes sense and if it is true that Hunt turned down the opportunity to get checked out, then it makes Hunt look bad.  Of course, the two sides are currently in a lawsuit where physical injuries are still being claimed so perhaps Hunt’s attorneys do not want him to avail to a medical examination at this point.  What will be interesting will be how all of this will factor in the pending lawsuit between Hunt, the UFC, Brock Lesnar and Dana White.

Wilder-World of Boxing case continues with Motion to Compel documents re Meldonium

October 26, 2017

The Deontay Wilder versus World of Boxing/Alexander Povetkin case has not ended.  Despite a Court ruling which denied World of Boxing and Povetkin’s (collectively WOB”) motions for new trial and/or motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict, the parties continue with the other elements of the causes of action.

In September, the Court denied motion to overturn the February jury verdict which determined that Povetkin took Meldonium after January 1, 2016.  Meldonium was a banned substance post-January 1, 2016.  He claimed that the detection of the Meldonium stemmed from taking it sometime in 2015.

A Joint Status Report filed with the Court mapped out further happenings in this lawsuit.  There is scheduling for the potential of a Motion for Summary Judgment and WOB has filed a Motion to Compel documents.

At this point, the attorneys for WOB filed a motion to compel certain documents from a string of emails from May 25, 2016.  This came to light during a deposition in which a WOB lawyer attempted to question a witness about the email string.  The lawyers for Wilder requested to “clawback” the document.  A “clawback” is a provision which allows the return of documents that were erroneously provided to the other side.  The reason for the “clawback” is that they are protected by a certain privilege or confidentiality.  This occurs in high-volume electronic discovery cases.

Wilder asserts that the emails were confidential communications protected by attorney-client privilege.  The Wilder privilege log which lists the documents that have not been produced to the other side states that they are protected by the Attorney-Client Privilege.  WOB claims that these exceptions do not apply.  The gist here is that the documents that are being withheld are said to be confidential because they include attorneys in the string of emails.  However, WOB claims that these emails are not protected because they were provided to third parties.

Payout Perspective:

Just when you thought that this case might be over, it continues. It appears that the parties are moving forward with the Breach of Contract cause of action.  This motion to compel was held until the finish of the post-trial briefing per Court order.  At this point, we don’t know the substance of the emails that are being withheld, only that they relate to Meldonium.  Wilder’s attorneys will likely argue that the substance of the emails is protected by attorney-client privilege or were provided to others maintaining privilege.  WOB argues that the substance of the emails is not legal in nature and do not uphold the privilege.  Even if the emails are proven not to be attorney-client privilege and handed over to WOB, the question is whether the substance of those emails will have any impact on the case.  A jury did find that Povetkin took Meldonium post-January 1, 2016.  Any information from the Wilder emails must provide something more to prove elements of WOB’s theory of the case.

MMA Payout will keep you posted.

Bisping sued by gym goer after incident at 24 Hour Fitness

October 26, 2017

TMZ Sports first reported that Michael Bisping is being sued by a 19-year-old after claims the UFC middleweight champion allegedly grabbed him by the throat.

The incident occurred on July 31st at a 24-Hour Fitness in Anaheim, California.  According to the lawsuit and report, Bisping was angered that Antonio Georgakopoulos had taken his weights without asking during the UFC champ’s workout.  Bisping went on a verbal tirade and eventually grabbed Georgakopoulos by the throat.

Anaheim Police were called but Bisping had left the scene.  He did comply with authorities and there were no criminal charges filed after an investigation.

Georgakoopoulos is suing for assault, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Payout Perspective:

If you wanted some public relations for Bisping-GSP, here’s some.  This seems like a lawsuit that will ultimately be settled.  Despite no criminal charges, it does not mean that the young man could not sue him in civil court, which he has done.  Regardless of how small the incident might seem, grabbing someone by the throat, or even attempting to do so, is not good especially if you are a public figure and a UFC fighter.  Expect a quick settlement here from Bisping.  If the UFC and 24 Hour Fitness are named in the lawsuit, I would assume that the UFC would get out without paying (since Bisping is an independent contractor) and that 24 Hour Fitness may have to pay something since it did happen in their gym and should have a reasonable expectation that patrons would not choke other gym members.

Good files lawsuit against supplement maker, Vitamin Shoppe

October 24, 2017

Lyman Good has filed a lawsuit against Gaspari Nutrition, Richard Gaspari, Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals, Jared Wheat and Vitamin Shoppe as a result of a failed UFC drug test.  Good alleges that a vitamin supplement he took was not properly labelled and contained a banned substance.

The target supplement is Anavite according to the lawsuit which was filed in New York by his attorney, David Fish.

Good was suspended for violating the UFC Anti-Doping Policy after he failed a random test.  As part of the process, he learned that the drug that may have caused the failed test was Anavite.

Good is requesting restitution, damages, injunctive and other equitable relief.  Good believes that Gaspari Nutrition misbranded the products as “dietary supplements” to defraud consumers into the believing it had superior “dietary supplements.”

Vitamin Shoppe was sued for (among other things) breach of warranty for selling the products “despite assurances of product quality and control.”  The store claims to have safety measures to ensure that the products its sells are of quality.  Good claims that it has failed to provide such safeguards based on the product he purchased from the store.

Upon learning of the flagged USADA test, Good had provided USADA with unopened packages of Anavite to examine at a lab regarding the contents.  The results confirmed Andro in the product.  Andro is a banned substance per the UFC Anti-Doping Policy and considered a steroid.  Thus, Good has sued the supplement maker, its owners and the store that sold the product.  The lawsuit indicates the harmful effects of steroids and the fact that Andro is such a substance

The lawsuit embeds a picture of the product and its contents which is listed as a “dietary supplement”.  Andro is considered “adulterated” and misbranded according to Good.

There are several causes of action in this lawsuit including products liability, fraud and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Good was taken off the New York City card last November as a result of the failed test.

Payout Perspective:

This is a first of its kind lawsuit under the UFC Anti-Doping Policy and perhaps MMA.  Good can show he was damaged due to the fact that he relied on the representation of the label that Anavite did not contain Andro as it was not on its label as a content and was listed as a “Dietary Supplement.”  He is making a claim against Vitamin Shoppe since it claims to have superior knowledge of these products and should have investigated this product.  The defendants will likely claim a tainted product and that overall, its products do not contain the banned substance.  Moreover, it will claim that there are no damages incurred by Good despite serving a six month sentence.

In products liability cases (lawsuits where the claim is that a product is defective), there is a higher standard on the manufacturer or seller to ensure that the user is not harmed.  In this instance, one could argue Good was not harmed in the sense of physical injury.  He was harmed since he had to ensure he did not ingest a banned substance per the UFC Anti-Doping Policy.  This will make a very interesting case as it continues.  MMA Payout will continue to follow.

After penning article on his health, Hunt taken off of UFC Fight Night 121 card

October 11, 2017

The UFC has pulled Mark Hunt from his main event match against Marcin Tybura in Australia for UFC Fight Night 121 this November citing medical concerns.  The concerns were made known after Hunt penned an article entitled, “If I die fighting, that’s fine.”

Fabricio Werdun will get the quick turnaround and fill-in for Hunt against Tybura.

The UFC pulled Hunt based on the article, in Player’s Voice (an offshoot of the U.S. version of The Player’s Tribune) as it stated that Hunt suffered from short-term memory loss and acknowledges that he is slurring his words.  In the article, he advocates for the expansion of the Ali Act to MMA and advises his children to do something aside from MMA.  In the article, he cites the “drug cheats” he faced in the sport including Brock Lesnar.

The UFC issued a statement to an Australian news outlet explaining its decision (via MMA Junkie):

“Following a recent first-person article published by UFC heavyweight Mark Hunt, UFC has taken the precautionary steps of removing Hunt from a previously announced bout in Sydney, Australia,” a statement first issued to News.com.au read. “The health-related statements made by Hunt in the article represent the first time UFC was made aware of these claims. Athlete health and safety is of the utmost importance to the organization and it would never knowingly schedule an athlete complaining of health issues for a fight. The organization will require that Hunt undergo further testing and evaluations prior to competing in any future UFC bout.”

Hunt is not pleased with this outcome and took to Instagram to blast Dana White and threated to sue.  The case is currently pending.

As we know, Hunt has sued the UFC, Dana White and Brock Lesnar.

Payout Perspective:

This is a sticky situation for the UFC as Hunt publicly notes that he is fine with dying in the ring and lists some serious physical injuries which may likely be long-term health issues.  This could lead to potential liability especially if the UFC allows Hunt to continue the fight despite his statements that he is suffering from short-term memory loss from what he believes is related to fighting.  Also, the UFC is engaged in a lawsuit with Hunt and now Hunt is claiming that he may sue for taking him off the card.  Frankly, the UFC may be in a situation where it may feel like it will have to sever ties with Hunt because it cannot allow him to continue to fight.  Perhaps the UFC and Hunt come together to have a physician examine him to determine whether he can continue to fight.  But, I would suggest that the UFC takes a conservative approach to allow him to fight (maybe a Daniel Bryan-WWE situation if you follow that).  This will be an interesting issue to keep track of moving forward.

Showtime requests class actions suits over Mayweather-McGregor move to New York

October 4, 2017

Law360 reports that Showtime Networks is asking that lawsuits stemming from poor streaming feeds for the Mayweather-McGregor fight be heard in New York.

Currently, there are 8 lawsuits across the nation in which plaintiffs claim that they paid to watch the Mayweather-McGregor fight but could not or received poor video streams.  The first was filed in federal court in Oregon.  Since then, there have been lawsuits in California and New York.

Showtime claimed that the venue for the lawsuits should be in federal court in New York despite the fact that the UFC, a Nevada company, is named in the lawsuits.  The network notes that one of the defendants, the UFC’s digital partner NeuLion, is based out of Long Island, New York.  Also, Showtime and co-defendant Showtime Digital, Inc. are based out of New York.

The argument to consolidate in New York is that it would prevent inconsistent rulings and cut down on the number of plaintiffs’ counsel taking part.  In the alternative, the case should be transferred to Nevada where the fight took place, where the UFC is based and where the fight took place.

Payout Perspective:

The request by Showtime is normal in multidistrict litigation as the parties are trying to consolidate on costs and prevent inconsistent rulings.  It also helps plan litigation strategy and determine which cases have merit and which do not.  Without knowing the merits of each of the cases, it would be surprising if Showtime, the UFC and the other defendants do not file a motion to dismiss based on prior rulings which include the recent Mayweather-Pacquiao lawsuits which were dismissed by a court in August.

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